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Up in the sky: look! It's an adjective! It's a noun! It's...Adjectivenoun!
Your friendly neighbourhood superheroes might have thrilling and varied powers and spandex garments, but the way their names are concocted have followed only a handful of formulae in the past 80 years, since Superman sent superheroes soaring.
(Yes, alliteration is one such naming formula.)
Glen Weldon of Pop Culture Happy Hour traces the supername's development from Adjective+Gender through Colour+Noun to Normal Name and Lone Noun.
- Go deep into the history of the term 'superhero', i.e. a load of Marvel and DC lawsuits. (Although credit to them for applying for the trademark 'Souper heroes', for chowders and dips.)
- Hear or read Stokely Carmichael’s Black Power speech at UC Berkeley in October 1966.
- How to name your superhero.
- Why Black Panther changed his name and changed it back again, and how Stan Lee named him in the first place.
- Black Panther/Black Panthers.
- Oh and also black panthers.
- What the Black Panther prototype Coal Tiger would have looked like.
- The politics of being a black superhero.
- Analysing gender in comics.
- Superman's history with phone booths.
- How Spider-Man taught Nikesh Shukla to write.
- Spider anatomy.
- My home town has its own superhero: Ringpull Man.
- Glen pleads with Hollywood to ditch the superhero origin stories.
- Sing along with Adam Buxton's Iron Man 2 song.
- Listen to this episode of 99% Invisible in which Scott McCloud explains the visual vocabulary of comics.
- Michael the bee.
- The transcript of this episode is at theallusionist.org/transcripts/supername.
Hello, I did a TED talk about typos. Watch it, please.
AUDIBLE sponsors this episode, and is giving Allusionist listeners in the USA a free title from their gigantic selection of audiobooks, original series, comedy shows, news and more. Get it by signing up for a free 30-day trial at audible.com/allusionist or by texting ALLUSIONIST to 500-500. How about listening to Glen Weldon narrating his book about the history of Batman?
Radiotopia is going on tour! Join us in May at theatres in Atlanta, Boston, DC, Durham*, NYC and Philly. 99% Invisible, Criminal, the Kitchen Sisters, Benjamen Walker and Radio Diaries will be performing, and I'll be onstage with my brother Andy from the Bugle. It's going to be a very fun show. Get tickets now at radiotopia.fm/live.
*The North Carolina one, not the northern England one.
YOUR RANDOMLY SELECTED WORD FROM THE DICTIONARY:
- Glen Weldon is the author of two books about superheroes: Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, and The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture. He also appears regularly on the NPR show Pop Culture Happy Hour.
- This episode was produced by me and Martin Austwick, who also makes the music that you hear in every episode. He has a beautiful new album out at palebirdmusic.com.
- Find me at facebook.com/allusionistshow, twitter.com/allusionistshow, twitter.com/helenzaltzman and instagram.com/helenzaltzman.